A cup of everlasting beauty

I spent a quiet, thoughtful day yesterday as the first snow of the season sifted down — wet, white flakes gorgeous against boughs of oak and maple, the backyard a patchwork of fallen leaves, our gardens dozing. Daylight dozed, too, wrapped in thick blankets of low-lying cloud…

Days like this used to evoke a certain wistfulness in me. Something inside felt lonesome when November skies darkened and days grew short and chilly. But my perspective shifted…. Once upon a November night, (thirty-one years ago last night, to be exact), a miracle happened: In a hush of snow while frozen gardens drowsed all through our town, a tiny new rose unfurled — a rose perfect for my husband and me, a tender rose in the form of our first child, our precious newborn daughter. We were smitten. And because of our sweet Margaret, Novembers always blossom for us now. They will never feel lonesome again…

To celebrate the arrival of her first grandchild, my sweet mother gave me a wonderful gift. She selected one of her mother’s bone china teacups, a pale pink one embellished with roses, and filled it to overflowing with fresh flowers. There were delicate sprays of pink mini-roses, and baby’s breath, and stems of English ivy. The result was decidedly Victorian, the most charming teacup bouquet ever to brighten a hospital maternity ward. I was enchanted. When the fresh flowers faded, Momma said she’d like me to keep her mother’s teacup and saucer. So the lovely china cup and saucer once owned by my grandmother became the first, and by far the most treasured, piece in my vintage teacup collection.

What’s not to love about vintage teacups? To me, each one is a work of art, a dainty reminder of times long past, when daily life was slower, simpler, and certainly more genteel… When I look at a teacup, I think of hand-embroidered linen tablecloths and lace-edged napkins, of afternoon teas and delectable cakes. Teacups serve as a transport for me. Each one I see whisks me away to a place of my imagining, a place filled with warmth and beauty and laughter and delight….

I’d like to share with you a few of the teacups in my collection. This one is painstakingly hand-painted and dates back to the 1850’s. I found this treasure in an antique shop two years ago, and it’s a particular favorite of mine.

 

Here’s another of my special favorites. It’s an Italian demitasse cup, complete with mermaids on one side and muses on the other. It’s perfect!

I found this hand-painted Jacobean beauty in a shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada. Its soft colors and design are enormously appealing to me.

Here is another cup from the same antique shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This one dazzled me with its rich cranberry color and gold embellishment.

As my mother so artfully demonstrated thirty-one years ago today, vintage teacups aren’t just for tea. They also can serve as containers for fresh flowers. Below are two of my favorite teacups, in which I arranged cut flowers from our gardens. I’m passionate about English transferware. This little transferware demitasse cup holds the last blossoms from our November garden.

I acquired this little beauty of a teacup last summer. The butterflies in this design turn me inside out. I filled this cup with cuttings from our late-spring gardens. The cup rests on hand-tatted lace my mother made. (Momma was Victorian to her very core.) Everything about this photo makes me smile…

Although my vintage teacups impart joy to me strictly as a collection, they clamor to be used on special occasions. One such opportunity arose last spring, when my far-flung, grown daughters, Margaret and Clare, happened to be home on the same weekend. To celebrate both girls’ belated birthdays, Margaret’s best friend, Addie, offered to bake a special cake, if I would kindly make arrangements for the tea. Happily, I agreed. But oh my! When the day of our party arrived, I was unprepared for the gorgeousness of the cake our dear Addie had made! She lovingly created a stunning cake in the shape of a teapot, from whose spout poured the loveliest sugar flowers imaginable.

The flowers cascaded into a teacup belonging to Addie’s maternal grandmother. And! …the cup actually held a mini-cake, just the right size for Addie’s young daughter to enjoy. (Because what tea party could be complete without a child to share it with? It’s a special joy to pass down a tradition as lovely as this to a member of our future generation.)

Addie’s cake was so flawless, so perfect, we hated to cut it. But oh, we were glad we did! The cake was as succulent and delicious as it was beautiful — a true feast for the senses, and certainly an elegant companion to my teacup collection.

For those of you who live locally, Addie is starting her own cake-baking business. Her artistic talent, marvelous creativity and attention to detail are already thrilling her lucky customers. If you’d like Addie to create a special masterpiece just for you, she can be reached at this email address: adriannacorby@gmail.com

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It’s another overcast, chilly November morning here. As leaves of russet and gold whirl past my window, I recall the birth-day of our beautiful Margaret, and I bask in that glow…. The heirloom teacup Momma gave me thirty-one years ago today links four generations of our family, uniting past and present. It is a cup of blessings, a cup of sweetest memories, a cup of everlasting beauty.

16 thoughts on “A cup of everlasting beauty

  1. YOU are a cup of everlasting beauty! EVERYTHING about this post is breathtaking — the birthday story, your mama, your sweet firstborn, your teacup collection, the CAKE! you are starlight in a midnight sky. xoxox

  2. Wonderful in every respect! Love tying these lovely things together on Margaret’s birthday. Your friends all over the world should see this. I had forgotten it all started with Marji. One with her thoughts and love and skills must still be around. And I had no idea of Addie’s cake baking expertise.

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  3. Awe…and aww. This struck right to my heart and bone (as in china). My mom also had a beloved tea cup collection which has been passed onto daughters, granddaughters and daughter-in-laws. At the moment, some are perched on my mantle and always a gentle reminder of mom and grandmas. Thanks for your beautiful photographs and sentiments on this most beautiful tradition.

    • Oh, I love knowing fine china teacups are a part of your own family tradition! I love, too, that you keep your treasured teacups in view as a reminder of your mother and grandmothers. Thank you for telling me! I’m smiling now. ❤️ xo

  4. Amy, this is such a beautiful post and such a touching story. Your photography is gorgeous (as always,by the way) and those teacups are stunning. I felt like I was leafing through Victoria magazine, with all of the charm and beauty that exquisite objects bring into our lives. And the cake is enchanting – what a lovely surprise! Must say that I have a terrible weakness for sweets and scones and afternoon tea, so really, you had me from the get-go.
    Just as an aside, October is the brightness for me that November is for you. So glad we can share that experience of love!

    • Jasna, I am grateful for your lovely remarks here. Thank you for them! I loved your reference to Victoria magazine. My mother and I swooned over it every month, each page more exquisite than the previous one… And oh, that teapot cake… I still dream of it! Crafted with pure love.

      I happen to share an October brightness with you! I have a February brightness as well! 💝✨xxoo

  5. Thank you for sharing your beautiful teacups and this lovely story, woven together so perfectly. That cake–oh my! Wish I lived closer to order one, but I wouldn’t want to cut it either! Happy birthday to your daughter!

    • I’m happy to know you enjoyed this post, Courtney! Thank you so much! Oh, that wonderful cake… It couldn’t have been more perfect for our tea party! Wish you lived closer and could join us, and play your gorgeous music on our piano! Wouldn’t that be fun? Lovely to hear from you! xo

  6. This is such a lovely post. I have most of my mama’s vintage tea cups as well. The ode to your daughter is so loving. Pure love shared. Thank you. 💗

  7. Amy, my mother and I now share my own grandmother’s tea cup collection. For years the cups resided, forgotten, in a dusty cupboard in my parents’ old house. When it was time to move and downsize, we weren’t sure what to do with all those tea cups — neither of us have extra space in our pared down smaller homes. But in the end, we gave a few away and divided the rest. Your post is a lovely reminder to bring these beauties out and use them. Thank you for sharing your beautiful collection and a wonderful happy birthday to your Margaret. I feel the same way about Novembers! Jack did not arrive in my arms as a rose, but his November 8 appearance on earth certainly enlivened a dreary month.

    • Oh, yes. There’s nothing like a precious newborn to illuminate November – or any month of the year, for that matter!

      I do hope you’ll photograph and write about some of your own treasured teacups, Katrina! I’d so love to see some pieces from your collection! x o x o

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